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Atal Innovation Mission: Promoting Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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Atal Innovation Mission, through its initiatives, is helping schools to nurture creativity among their students and also supporting incubators to help youth in becoming job creators, says R Ramanan, Mission Director – Atal Innovation Mission, Additional Secretary, NITI Aayog, Government of India, in an interview with Poulami Chakravorty of Elets News network (ENN).

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) has two core functions – Entrepreneurship promotion and Innovation promotion. Please describe in brief.

R Ramanan, Mission Director - Atal Innovation Mission, Additional Secretary, NITI Aayog, Government of India

R Ramanan, Mission Director – Atal Innovation Mission, Additional Secretary, NITI Aayog, Government of India

The Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is a flagship initiative of Indian Government under NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the country. AIM will achieve its objective by adopting a holistic framework of creating, nurturing and supporting an innovative ecosystem at various levels such as schools, universities, small and medium industries, corporate, NGOs and research institutions.

What changes are required in our present education system (higher and school) to make youth innovative and skilled?

India is going to be the youngest country by 2020 with 64% of population in the working age group. We have around 1.5 million schools with over 150 million students enrolled in them and more than 750 universities and over 35,000 colleges across the country. It is important to nurture youth as job creators rather than being job seekers through these institutions. Reforms in the education system should therefore be both incremental and disruptive to enable the same. Some of the changes needed in our present education system are:

  • Enabling access to good quality yet affordable school education in remote districts of the country leveraging digital technologies and digital transformations
  • Regular updation of curriculum and learning methodologies to remain in sync with the rapidly changing science, technology and business landscape globally
  • Nurturing innovation and problem solving among school and university students
  • Resolving the issue of quality teachers and improving the student-teacher ratio through reforms that would create, attract and retain high quality teachers and also incentivise them to teach even in the remotest parts of the country
  • Reducing student drop-outs especially girls in rural areas by incentivising education and making parents aware about the importance of education for their wards
  • Emphasis on improving the mathematical and analytical skills at the student level and encourage awareness on social problems and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Ensuring practical tinkering/training in a fun filled learning environment so that theoretical knowledge help students enhance their innovative capabilities

Till date, 2,441 schools have already been selected for ATL Grants and by the end of 2018 over 5,000 schools are expected to be operational with Atal Tinkering Labs, covering every district of the country.

To foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds, Atal Tinkering Laboratories were established by AIM. What are prominent features of ATL?

At school level, Atal Innovation Mission is setting up state-of-the-art Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) across the country. This is one of the most novel initiatives in our present education system and in the world considering its size and scale. ATLs are dedicated innovation workspaces of 1,200- 1,500 square feet where Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kits on latest technologies like 3D Printers, Robotics, Internet of Things (IOT), Miniaturised electronics are installed. These labs are established with support from Government for students of Grade VI to Grade XII to learn and develop innovative solutions using these technologies.

Till date, 2,441 schools have already been selected for ATL Grants and by the end of 2018 over 5,000 schools are expected to be operational with Atal Tinkering Labs, covering almost every district of the country.

In line with its objective, ATL programme is also conducting various activities to engage students and teachers to identify problems and develop innovative solutions leveraging the technologies available at ATLs. Every school should appoint an ATL in-charge and mentors to ATL students.

Atal Innovation Tinkering challenges are also held in schools by AIM every month to ensure students’ active involvement in creating innovative solutions to problems in their community and in the country.

Recently, ATAL Tinkering Marathon was organised in which over 35,000 students participated and over 650 best innovation entries were submitted for evaluation. 14 April, 2018 celebrated as ATL Community Day which witnessed the participation of over 50,000 children of who 25,000 were from the non ATL schools. The objective behind ATL Community Day was to spread awareness on ATL technology driven innovations among students and schools.

The Atal Tinkering Labs have created enthusiasm among students. A Balanced Score Card based approach has been designed to monitor and measure the outcomes of ATLs.

India is going to be the youngest country by 2020 with 64% of population in the working age group. We have around 1.5 million schools with over 150 million students enrolled in them, more than 750 universities and over 35,000 colleges.

Other than education, what are the areas AIM is working in to bring innovative transformation? Please share details of Government, public and private organisations, AIM has collaborated with in this regard.

Atal Innovation MissionAt the university, NGO, SME and Corporate industry levels, AIM is setting up world-class Atal Incubators (AICs) that would trigger and support successful growth of sustainable startups from every state of the country. AIM is also providing support to existing incubators to scale up their operations.

AIM is providing grant of up to Rs 10 crore to successful applicants for setting up Greenfield incubators or scaling up existing ones. The idea is that every one of the 110 named smart cities of India and the top 5-10 educational/ industrial institutions of every state should aspire to have a world class incubator leading their students to create new start-ups. Till date, 19 Atal Incubators are operational. By the end of 2018-19, we would have 50+ Atal Incubators operational. AIM is also encouraging Women led incubators and entrepreneurial startups.

To promote product specific innovations with social/economic impact, AIM will be launching Atal New India Challenges in specific areas and sectors of national importance such as Renewable Energies, Energy Storage, Climatesmart precision agriculture, Universal drinking water, Swaach Bharat, Transportation, Education, Healthcare using Robotic, IOT technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Augmented and Virtual reality, Battery Technologies etc. Most of these areas are in line with the priorities recommended by the recently released Economic Survey of India 2017-18. The first set of 17 Atal New India Challenges (ANIC) has been launched on 26 April, 2018.

How the Indo Israel Startup contest is supposed to boost the startup culture and innovation in India? What is the role of Israel in it?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel in July 2017 to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. India counts Israel among its important innovation partners. The need to rely on science, technology, innovation, and higher technical education to overcome developmental challenges is common to both India and Israel. These domains also bring together the creative energy and ideas of the highly skilled youth and entrepreneurs of the two countries.

Please share the future initiatives and schemes under Atal Innovation Mission.

AIM is also envisaged as an organisation that would play an instrumental role in alignment of innovation policies between central, state and sectoral innovation schemes. Long term goals of AIM include establishment and promotion of Small Business Innovation Research and Development at national level (AIM SBIR) for the SME/MSME/start-ups, and rejuvenating Science and Technology innovations in major research institutions of the country like Council of Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) aligned to national socio-economic needs.

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